Harry Rhodes and the rest of the gang at Growing Home have been quietly plugging along, doing their excellent work, helping people, and they’ve done so without a lot of fanfare over the years. So it was good to see them get some national-level recognition in Frances Moore Lappe’s blog, appearing in a recent Huffington Post.
Frances makes a great point — organic is not just for rich elitists. Growing Home is using a social enterprise, organic farming business to train and support homeless and low-income individuals. They do this at urban farm sites in Chicago and at a rural farm outside of the city. It’s a great model for teaching farm and business skills that reconnect people to their neighborhoods.
What so many people don’t realize is how lousy the food choices are in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods. Most grocery stores moved out of these areas long ago. What you have instead are liquour stores, convenient stores and fast-food restaurants. No farmers markets. No CSAs. No access to fresh produce. This is the beauty of Growing Home — it provides a solution to multiple problems. Job training, homelessness, fresh food availability — we need more Growing Home type organizations. Go to their website and contribute to this very worthwhile effort.
Now let’s build on it. Throw in some other ideas like, The People’s Grocery out of Oakland, CA…
… a community-based organization in West Oakland whose mission is “to develop a self-reliant, socially just and sustainable food system in West Oakland… that foster[s] healthy, equitable and ecological community development.” The organization’s seven bright, energetic mostly part-time staff, along with a host of community volunteers, move this mission forward through a variety of community- and youth-focused social enterprises, urban agricultural projects, educational programs and public policy initiatives.
I’ve got another idea: Picture a fleet of refurbished, refrigerated beer trucks with weekly routes and regular stops in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods. The doors slide open, but instead of beer, fresh fruits and veggies are stacked up and down the side compartments — BAM! instant farmers market. The market trucks are driven and managed by local people, and they sell in their own neighborhoods. Every morning they load up their trucks at a central location and then fan out across the city. People start to learn that the mobile farmers market will be at the corner of X and Y every Tuesday from 10:00-11:00 AM. It’s within walking distance. The produce is fresh and reasonably priced. Jobs are created, small businesses formed, the farmers have another market, people get access to fresh, high-quality food.
What could be better than that?